Numbers in [brackets] are the mitzva-count according to the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary.
First Aliya – 14 p’sukim – 6:9-22
The sedra of B’reishit began with the glorious account of creation and “went downhill” from there: The exile of Adam and Chava from Gan Eden, Kayin and Hevel, the continuous degeneration (PI) through successive generations until G-d’s “regret” for having created the world and His “decision” to destroy it. The only brightnote of this universal downslide comes at the end of the sedra: “And (But) No’ach found favor in G-d’s eyes”. The sedra of No’ach continues this thread and tells us that No’ach was completely righteous “in his time”. Rashi presents the divergent opinions as to whether “in his time” is complimentary or derogatory. Was No’ach great EVEN in his very wicked generation, or was he great only by comparison to the generation in which he lived. Although Rashi does not seem to favor one possibility over the other, it seems obvious that No’achwas not as great as Avraham Avinu. A look at the fifth chapter of Pirkei Avot will reveal a significant difference between Noach and Avraham. Ten generations between Adam and Noach and between Noach and Avraham, both to teach us about G-d’s long patience. Same. Yet when the first full run of ten generations was up, theFlood came. When the second one was up, the Mishna tells us, that Avraham’s merit sustained the whole world. Noach’s merit was enough only to save his immediate family. Noach is informed by G-d of His plans to destroy the world and is commanded to build an ark, bring into it two of every kind of animal and sufficient food for his family and the animals. Commentaries point out that Noach was given ample time to try to influence his generation to mend its ways. He either didn’t succeed ordidn’ttry too hard. He did exactly as he was told (and not more?). Think about this… G-d could have destroyed the world and saved No’ach and family and the pairs of animals with a miraculous snap of the finger. In no time. With no human involvement. He could have, but He didn’t. He could have left No’ach on his own, to do the whole job of saving his own family and sample pairs of all the animals. He didn’t do that either. (It probably would have been humanly impossible for No’ach to have done the whole job.) What G-d did do is command No’ach to build an ark of 300x50x30 cubits (what’s a cubit? – BC), three-tiered floating structure and to gather all the food necessary to feed many, many animals and his family for a year. Can’t be done without a heavy dose of miracle, of suspension of the laws of nature. But No’ach was part of it. And that is what G-d usually wants when it comes to miracles. We, as humans, relate so much better to that kind of miracle. Nachshon b. Aminadav needed to jump into the Sea before it would split. People needed to see what No’ach was doing for 120 years. We need to see some familiar nature insidea miracle, and we need to see the miracle inside nature.
Second Aliya -16 p’sukim – 7:1-16
G-d tells Noach and his family to go into the ark and to take with him seven pairs of each kind of kosher animal and bird. Noach is told that in seven more days it will rain for 40 days and nights during which time all life on earth will be wiped out. Noach was 600 years old at the time of the Flood. And so it was. The Talmud (in Pesachim) points to G-d’s instructions to take “Animals that are Tahor (i.e. Kosher) and those that are not Tahor”, as a lesson in speaking with a “clean” language, i.e. not vulgar. The Torah could have used the word TAMEI (unclean) but chose a longer way to say it using more pleasant terms. Commentariesask, if this is so, how come the Torah uses the word TAMEI in many other contexts. The answer is, that when the Torah is setting down Mitzva and Halacha, it must use straightforward terms to avoid any possible confusion. When recounting a story, on the other hand, it is preferable to use more polite language. G-d’s commands to Noach to take pairs of animals and 7 pairs of kosher animals and birds are two separate matters. The pairs of animals were for the continuation of the species. These animals, we are taught, came on their own by instinct of self-preservation. On the other hand, Noach had to bring into the Teiva the otheranimals, whose destiny, so to speak, was the Altar and dinner table. On that note, another question comes to mind. How many deer were in the Ark? Seven pairs because the deer is a kosher animal, or only two because the deer is never brought as a Korban? Since some say that the reason for the seven pairs was because of sacrifices, and others say it was to provide kosher food, what’s the answerfor deer? Similarly, how many chickens? Sacrifices? No. Food? Yes. So which was it? Rabbi Zev Leff explains that B’nei Noach are permitted to offer sacrifices from ANY kosher animal or bird; No’ach was not restricted to cow, goat, sheep, doves. Hence, for either reason, there were seven pairs of deer, chickens, etc.
Third Aliya – 22 p’sukim – 7:17-8:14
The rains fell and the waters of the deep surged for 40 days and nights, but the Flood remained at its highest highest for an additional 150 days. G-d ‘remembered” No’ach and all with him in the ark, and the waters began to recede. The ark settled on Mt. Ararat and 40 days later (Remember the first 40 days? This time the40 represents the rebirth of those who survived the Mabul), No’ach opened the” window” of the ark and sent out a raven. Then he sent out a dove, and again, and finally after a full (365 day) year, the earth was ready to receive its new inhabitants. Ashkenazim add two words and a letter to their Amida during the winter. S’faradim have a much greater change. Their summer bracha is BORCHEINU HASHEM… with 32 words. In the winter, their BAREICH ALEINU has 85 words.
Fourth Aliya – 15 p’sukim – 8:15-9:7
G-d tells Noach to leave the ark with his wife, his sons and their wives, and all the animals and birds. Noach builds an altar and sacrifices upon it from all the kosher species (that are permitted for korbanot). G-d’s “reaction” to Noach’s offerings is that in spite of the basic evil potential of human nature, He will”take things in stride” and not destroy the “wholesale fashion” of the Flood (but rather punish on a more restricted individual basis). The laws of nature are altered to provide the world with a never- ceasing cycle of seasons and climactic conditions. Here’s a Thought… We can see in the account of the Flood and its aftermath, a continuation of creation. It is as if stage 1 of creation was recorded in Breishit and here we have stage 2. In other words, the world as we know it came into existence during the 6 days of creation AND the Flood which took place 10 generations later. It’s likearough draft and a final (?) revision. The point is that we learn about the world from all that the Torah tells us. We would not have full benefit of the lessons of the Torah without the account of the early generations. G-d blessed and commanded Noach and his family (and all of mankind) to be fruitful and multiply”. Noach receives permission to eat meat (this was denied to the previous genera tions), but was warned not to eat from a live animal. Murder and the other Noahide Laws are referred to at this point.
Fifth Aliya – 10 p’sukim – 9:8-17
G-d makes a promise to mankind that He will never again destroy the world as He did with the Flood. The rainbow will serve as sign and reminder of this promise. We acknowledge the significance of a rainbow by reciting a bracha when we see one “…He Who remembers the Covenant, is faithful to it, and keeps His word. Note that of the 10 items mentioned in Avot as having been created at the instant between the Six Days of Creation and the first Shabbat, all but the rainbow are supernatural.Therainbow, then, can be seen as a bridge between the natural and the supernatural. Put differently, we should see G-d’s handiwork in all the elements of nature, not just in obvious miracles. “The mouth of the Earth” was a one- time creation to dispose of Korach and his gang. But regular rocks and hills, crags and cleftsareno less part of G-d’s handiwork. Some say that a rainbow is a sign that G-d is angry with the world and would want to destroy it – except He promised not to. On the other hand, Yechezkel describes the Heavenly Throne as like a rainbow, and the radiance of the Kohen Gadol upon leaving the Holy of Holies is likened to a rainbow in the sky. And it’s beautiful, too.
Sixth Aliya – 44 p’sukim – 9:18-10:32
Second longest Shishi in the Torah. Some time after leaving the ark, Noach becomes a tiller of the soil and a grape grower. He produces wine and becomes drunk. One of his sons, Cham, behaves immorally with his father in his drunken state; Shem and Yafet behave admirably in the situation. When Noach realizes what has happened he curses Cham and his son Canaan,and blesses Shem and Yafet. Noach lives 350 years after the Flood, and dies at the age of 950. No’ach was 600 when the Flood began. He lived 350 after the Flood. The Torah seems to make a point of summing those two numbers to come to 950. What about the year of the Flood itself? It can be argued that the year of the Flood is not part of the normal timeline of the world. Nature was put on hold for the duration. Itwas as if No’ach and Co. were in suspended animation for the year. This is an idea that helps “explain” any discrepancies in age of archeological or geological finds. The year wasn’t really a year. The Torah next outlines the generations that followed Noach including mention of Nimrod, the mighty rebel against G-d, and the nations that came from Shem, Cham and Yafet.
Seventh Aliya – 32 p’sukim – 11:1-32
This is the longest Sh’vi’i in the Torah The Torah tells us of the attempt to build the “Tower of Babel”, the symbol of rebellion against G-d. (This happened, by the way, 40 years after the Mabul – that’s another 40.) G-d thwarted the plans, confused the languages of mankind and scattered the people far and wide. Commentaries contrast the two sinful generations in this sedra. Dor HaMabul was destroyed because their sins included the destruction of society by total disregard of a person for his fellow. Dor HaPlaga sinned against G-d alone, not against each other. Society (albeit altered) can survive; G-d can permit it to continueunder these circumstances. He can forgive man’s sins against Himself, but not man’s sins against his fellow. The sedra returns to the lineage of Noach, this time tracing only through Shem, straight down to Terach and his son Avram (with wife Sarai). The sedra thus ends with the stage set for the next major phase of world development – the return to belief in one G-d and the “birth of Judaism”.
22 p’sukim -Yeshayahu – 54:1-55:5
Rabbi Jacobs points out the obvious connection between the parsha and its haftara – viz. reference in the haftara to the Waters of No’ach. On a deeper level, Yeshayahu draws a comparison between the covenant that G-d made with all mankind via No’ach and the promises to the People of Israel concerning their future. Justas G-d promised never to flood the whole Earth again, so too does He promise not to rebuke and punish Israel (in the future).